Four MNHRC Members Resign over Tailor Shop Abuse Case

By San Yamin Aung 6 October 2016

RANGOON— Four members of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) have resigned following public outcry over their negotiating a financial settlement in a high-profile abuse case of two teenage maids in downtown Rangoon.

The President’s Office announced on Thursday the resignations of U Zaw Win, Dr. Nyan Zaw, Dr. Than New, and Daw Mya Mya have been authorized with the signature of President U Htin Kyaw.

The commissioners faced calls to resign after it transpired they urged families of the victims to accept cash settlements totaling US$ 4,000 from the accused abusers rather than push for legal action.

The two victims of the abuse case, 16-year-old Ma San Kay Khaing and 17-year-old Ma Tha Zin from Rangoon’s Kawhmu Township, described being beaten, cut, and forced to work for five years with little or no pay by the family who owns Ava Tailor Shop in downtown Rangoon.

The case was initially filed at the Kyauktada Township police station three months ago by U Swe Win, chief correspondent of Myanmar Now news agency, after a member of the family informed him about the abuse and asked for help in rescuing the girls.

When the police failed to take action, U Swe Win contacted the human rights commission. But the commission failed to speak directly to the victims and have been criticized for what was perceived as taking advantage of the victims and their families’ lack of legal knowledge.

Amid public anger for what was widely deemed insufficient action by the commission, the Yangon Police Force’s Anti-Human Trafficking Unit and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement opened the case against the perpetrators and six family members connected to the case were detained at the end of last month.

An urgent proposal was also submitted and approved in the Lower House of the Union Parliament on Sept. 22 to take action against the commission for failing to help the victims and violating their human rights.

U Swe Win told The Irrawaddy that it is good that the resignations have been announced so soon after the Lower House’s proposal but the whole commission needs to be reorganized.

“Though the commission members resigned, it is not enough. If we don’t have a body which truly works for the sake of human rights matters, it will be loss for the country,” he said.

“And another important thing here is that a journalist [referring himself] was at the commission’s closed door meeting,” said U Swe Win. In previous cases details of the commission’s work were not released. “It is also important to have transparency on the commission’s work” he added.

The six family members of the Ava Tailor shop are facing several charges under the Anti-Human Trafficking Law, and the Child Law, Penal Code 325 and 326 for “voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means,” and 344 for “wrongful confinement for ten or more days.”